Ruth Wilson‘s unexpected departure from The Affair in 2018 was a shock to fans of the critically acclaimed Showtime drama. In interviews, Wilson publicly denied reports that her exit had anything to do with a pay dispute, insisting that she was “not allowed” to talk about the real reason she had left the series. Now, more than a year after her split from the show, The Hollywood Reporter has released a lengthy report that suggests a “toxic” environment and pressure to do nude scenes led Wilson to walk away from her Golden Globe-winning role.
According to multiple sources with information on Wilson’s exit, the actress was disturbed by the amount of nudity that was required of her, says The Hollywood Reporter. The sources also alleged that there was “friction” between Wilson and The Affair‘s creator and showrunner, Sarah Treem, over the direction of Wilson’s character, Alison Bailey. The actress reportedly raised a complaint with Showtime in 2017 over what she considered to be a “hostile work environment.”
The sources said that Wilson verbally objected to how often she was required to undress and that in one instance she was overheard asking on set, “Why do you need to see me and not more of [a male co-star]?” One source described Treem as repeatedly trying to “cajole actors to get naked even if they were uncomfortable or not contractually obligated to.” Additionally, sources told THR that there were instances of nude scenes being improperly handled, including instances of unnecessary individuals on set and a monitor left on that made a sex scene visible to someone not involved with production. Wilson reportedly refused to film at least one sex scene that she was uncomfortable with; a body double was used in her place. (According to THR, Wilson’s body double sued Showtime in 2017, alleging she was fired after speaking up when a male assistant director called her “Alison Sexytime Double” on a call sheet. That case has been settled.)
In a statement to THR, Treem denied coaxing the show’s stars into filming nude scenes. “That’s not who I am. I am not a manipulative person, and I’ve always been a feminist,” she said, adding that she “did everything I could think of to make [Wilson] feel comfortable with these scenes.” Treem told THR, “The reason I even created The Affair was to illuminate how the female experience of moving through the world is so different from the male one, it’s like speaking a second language. The idea that I would ever cultivate an unsafe environment or harass a woman on one of my shows is utterly ridiculous and lacks a grounding in reality.”
The report also details a 2016 incident in which Jeffrey Reiner, an executive producer and regular director of The Affair, allegedly asked Girls creator Lena Dunham, in explicit terms, to have dinner with Wilson so that she could talk her into performing more nude scenes. During the same conversation, Reiner also allegedly showed Dunham an explicit photograph on his phone, which sources said was an on-set photo showing a nude actor alongside The Affair star Maura Tierney. The incident was described in a blind item on Lenny Letter, the former website shared by Dunham and producer Jenni Konner.
THR reports that Reiner met with HR following the publication of the blind item. Reiner later left The Affair after Season 3, reportedly after being told that he would no longer be permitted to direct episodes featuring Wilson. Reiner declined to comment to THR.
The incident between Reiner and Dunham reportedly gave Wilson leverage to negotiate her exit from the series, including a “substantial payment.” She filmed her portions of Season 4, her final season, prior to the rest of production, the report says, and Treem was reportedly not allowed on set with her during filming, at Wilson’s request. While Wilson was not able to dictate her character’s fate at the end of Season 4, she did successfully veto Treem’s desired ending for her character, which involved Alison fending off an attempted rape before her murder. The sexual assault was removed from the storyline.
In 2018, Wilson told Vulture that she “had no say over how the character’s arc was going to end or how she would die and leave … I always had the image that she would walk into the sunset with her son and no man.”
In a statement obtained TV Guide, Showtime reiterated its statement to THR in the report. “At its core, Showtime has always prioritized the discovery and support of new talent, by providing an inclusive platform for original voices, and a safe environment for them to do their best work,” the statement reads. “When confronted with a report of inappropriate behavior involving anyone within our offices or productions, we immediately initiate a process overseen by our compliance team in the case of our own shows, or in the case of series we license from others, we collaborate closely with the relevant production studio. In the instances that THR is referencing, appropriate and decisive action was taken.”
Representatives for Wilson did not immediately respond to TV Guide’s request for comment.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)
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